Thursday, January 29, 2009

Low-Tech Services Libraries Should Give More Thought To

Being in the midst of an apocalyptic winter storm (myself without electricity for about 32 hours and counting) has gotten me thinking more than usual about the fragility of our current society, and the amazing lack of self-sufficiency endemic in our population. While technology and cheap energy have minimized the need for basic domestic survival skills for many, that era is fast approaching its end. I feel that as a librarians, in our role as gatekeepers of knowledge, we should be working to encourage the population to prepare for such eventualities. In particular, there are a few main areas that we (as a society) need to focus on:

1) Food: gardening, cooking, preserving/canning, hunting, organics and permaculture.
2) Technical skills: carpentry, woodworking, metallurgy, plumbing, recycling, alternative construction techniques, energy efficiency/alternative enegy.
3) Domestic skills: sewing, medicine, entertainment, art.

There are probably a lot more, but that is a good start.

What I propose is that the libraries of the future have dedicated DIY staffs (sort of like reference workers for how to jobs) that work with patrons, helping them find whatever resources they need to do something (say, building a tool shed or making jam), and who could also impart their own knowledge and skills. Larger libraries could even have workshops (say, a carpentry room in the basement), tool libraries, and other resources tailored to helping citizens become more self-reliant.


Thursday, January 22, 2009

Whistleblower confirms Warrantless Wiretap Program Surveyed ALL U.S. Communications

Blow them whistles!

Wired has the scoop on the amazing/saddening/unsurprising revelation that the warrantless wiretapping program carried out by the NSA under the Bush administration placed ALL citizens under a surveillance dragnet.

2 things immediately struck me about this:

1) Why not sooner? Now, I realize this guy has already gone through a ton of crap for doing the right thing, and will likely go through more media-crucifiction at the hands of Bill O'Reilly and the likes... but seriously, why couldn't he have said this months or years ago when someone important could have actually been punished for it?

2)Why isn't this all over the front page of the New York Times, Washington Post, and other major news sources?

Library Tech That Is Not A Computer

That's right, a scooter.

The Chicago Metro Library System had the great idea of purchasing a scooter to help make their libraries more accessible to elderly patrons. Read all about it here.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

The Right to Read

Just in case you were interested in pondering some of the darker "what-ifs" related to the digitization of media, here is Richard Stallman's magnificent short story/call to arms "The Right To Read."

RIAA ends war against consumers, remains silly.

Tiny Mix Tapes has an excellent update on the RIAA's case against Joel Tenenbaum, a student that downloaded 7 songs and is being sued for one million dollars. The judge has agreed to allow the trial to be broadcast live through streaming video on the Internet, a decision which the RIAA is fighting. Furthermore, the Berkman Center for the Internet and Society at Havard Law School (Tenenbaum's pro-bono legal aid) will be distributing the video under the Creative Commons license.

Well done.

Interview - Siva Vaidhyanathan

Here is an awesome interview with Siva Vaidhyanathan, author of The Anarchist In The Library, gripped from Lawrence Lessig's blog. It's a few years old, but the issues he raises (corporate media vs. the creative commons, the post-9/11 erosion of civil liberties, the possibilities for good and evil uses of the internet) are still just as pressing today.


I hope to use this blog to follow some trends and emerging issues regarding technology and libraries, and along the way I'll try to give penetrating critical analysis. I'm coming at most of this stuff from an environmentalist, vaguely anarchist perspective, so keep that in mind as you read my interpretations.

For starters, check out this solid dissection of some of the downfalls (particularly in the way of privacy) related to cloud computing.